Some Leading Principles of Political Economy Newly Expounded

By J. E. Cairnes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V.
ON SOME MINOR TOPICS.

§ 1. I PROPOSE to devote this concluding chapter on International Trade to the consideration of some topics which seem to fall more easily under this than under other headings -- topics more or less involved, and in general tacitly decided in one sense or another, in most commercial and monetary discussions, but the current ideas respecting which are by no means in accordance with the main principles of international trade as these have been developed in the foregoing pages.

The first of those questions to which I would ask the reader's attention is the following: What is the interest of a country in the scale of its general prices? Is it for the advantage of the people, as a whole, that the scale should be high or low? and, assuming that they have an interest in either alternative, what is the nature of the advantage, and what are its limits? A moment's reflection will enable us to take at least one step toward the solution of our problem: the interest involved, whatever be its character and extent, can only be real so far forth as the high or low scale of prices is not universal--so far forth, that is to say, as it is not shared in the same degree by all countries. A country can have no permanent interest in an advance, or in a fall of prices, which embraces the whole commercial world. Such a change leaves the purchasing power of each country in relation to every other precisely where it was before; reciprocal demand, therefore, would continue unaffected, and, by consequence, international values, and all interests that depend on that relation. But where the

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